I am looking to write a Will. I am in my forties and should have done it some time ago but I am wondering about the question of executors. The people I trust to take this on are the same age as me or older. How important is it to ask someone who is more likely to outlive you versus someone you know for sure will do a good job? Do people switch their executors for younger models as they get older? How much work is involved in being an executor?
One of the most important decisions to be made in any Will is who will act as the executors. You can choose anyone you like to be an executor and, very often, friends and family might be involved in this role. Sometimes, a professional person such as a solicitor will also be involved as an executor, perhaps acting with friends and family or perhaps acting alone to spare the family the burden of dealing with the administration of the estate. Whoever you choose, the executors will clearly need to be people that you trust.
The role of an executor is to deal with the administration of the estate. This will include identifying the assets owned by the person who has died, as well as any liabilities that may be owed, reporting the estate to HMRC, dealing with any inheritance tax queries that may arise and settling any tax liability that falls due, and then dealing with the administration of the assets. This might include closing bank accounts, selling properties and investments, etc. An executor is personally liable to make sure that the estate is being properly investigated and also to settle all debts and liabilities that fall due from the estate. An executor is also accountable to the beneficiaries and is responsible for making sure that the estate is correctly divided between the beneficiaries that you want to benefit from your Will.
Depending on the nature and complexity of an estate, the work involved in being an executor can sometimes be complex, especially if inheritance tax is due, but many estates are more straightforward and may not involve too much complexity. That said, many executors may seek professional help so that they can be guided through the probate process.
An executor will clearly need to be somebody who is likely to outlive you. Most individuals who have a spouse or partner will name that person as an executor and, for clients with adult children, those children can also be named as executors when they reach an age where it is felt appropriate to involve them. Wills should be reviewed on a regular basis and so the identity of the executors can change over time as part of this process. An executor is also allowed to step back from dealing with the administration of an estate if he/she wishes to allow the other executors to act and, in the process, the position can be streamlined.
You can see the rest of the article that was first published in Financial Times.